CBA Record July-August 2020
Aid. Bowden, who was also a Reverend, told Ahmad that the staff attorney at the agency had just left the position and offered her a full-time assignment. “Maryam would be on call for us 24 hours a day and she always answered the call. She was my best volunteer because she was so very concerned about people being represented properly and about justice,” recalls Bowden. “She was extremely passionate about the law and trying to make the law work for everyone, and that’s what I love about her. If Maryam takes on a responsibility, she’s not going to play with it. She is going to do it 100 percent.” “As I look back, I believe that it was divine intervention that put me on the path that would allowme to apply my legal skills to focus on the issues that I am most passionate about in order to be of service to others,” Ahmad said. She jumped into the work, learning criminal law and taking on her own cases, often pro bono. Bowden later encouraged Ahmad, a single mother, to consider join- ing the Cook County Public Defender’s Office so she could receive a salary and benefits for doing the legal work she loved. She followed that advice and spent over three years working as an assistant public defender before joining the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. She observed there were very few African American Assistant
Ahmad was the first person to hold the position of Special Assistant to the President on Diversity at DePaul University. Here she is picturedwith then President, the late Rev. John P. Minogue, C.M., and the late Cardinal Francis George, the former Archbishop of Chicago.
degree in this area would limit her ability to teach students of color and those who came from backgrounds similar to hers. It was a crisis of conscience that prompted her to look in other directions. At the time, DePaul University had cre- ated the Special Assistant to the President on Diversity position due to student unrest over the lack of faculty and senior staff of color. Ahmad was the first in that role and reported directly to the President, the late Rev. John P. Minogue, C.M. “Father Minogue was not only my boss but a benevolent man. He granted me a partial scholarship,” said Ahmad. “Because of his generosity, I graduated owing DePaul College of law 13 cents. It will take me a lifetime to repay his generosity in kind acts to others.” In her third year at DePaul, Ahmad enrolled in the Advanced Trial Advocacy class. Her adjunct professor was attorney William H. Hooks. Hooks, now a Cook County Circuit Court judge, recalls, “I would only have about 10 to 12 students per course and oftentimes, once they saw the syllabus for the class, I tended to lose several of them because they were intimidated by the workload. But not Maryam.” “Maryam very quickly became a leader in the class. She was an excellent student and was so driven. To this day I have not met a lawyer or a judge as motivated as Maryam. She has unlimited potential and she will be a visionary leader at the CBA,” Hooks stated.
After law school graduation, Ahmad worked at firms specializing in civil litiga- tion and employment discrimination. But something was missing, and she found herself at a crossroads: “I was despondent. I had trained to be an IP lawyer, but I wasn’t happy going to federal court, and I wasn’t happy being a civil litigator. Most of all, I wasn’t helping the people I had gone to law school to support.” Ahmad began volunteering on evenings and weekends at First Defense Legal Aid, representing individuals who had been taken into custody at Chicago Police stations. This work ignited her passion. She spoke to Darron Bowden, the then- Executive Director of First Defense Legal
Ahmad with her father Bashir Ahmad and son Trinity Goode on the day she graduated from DePaul University College of Law.
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